Rick Santorum: The Anti-Capitalist

by | Jan 9, 2012 | POLITICS

A few years ago, it seemed inevitable.  The popular resistance to the increasingly invasive federal policies in healthcare, housing, and finance seemed to have sparked a cultural revolution of sorts.  This was characterized by the “Tea Party” movement that demanded smaller, more limited government.  Not long thereafter, it appeared that the champions of capitalism, individualism, […]

A few years ago, it seemed inevitable.  The popular resistance to the increasingly invasive federal policies in healthcare, housing, and finance seemed to have sparked a cultural revolution of sorts.  This was characterized by the “Tea Party” movement that demanded smaller, more limited government.  Not long thereafter, it appeared that the champions of capitalism, individualism, and freedom would surely sweep to power in 2012.

And yet here we are.

The GOP debate stages are lined with yesterdays headlines, has-been Republicans, and empty promises.  In the legislature, the House of Representatives is overrun with a coalition of “Tea Party” types who have lost the fire and zeal that propelled them into high office.  How could such a reversal of fortune occur in such a small window of time?

Unfortunately, the supposed upheaval in the Republican party was no upheaval at all.  The GOP hopefuls traversing the political terrain are merely touting the same lip service their predecessors spewed before them.  The new “Anti-Romney,” former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania Rick Santorum, demonstrates this most effectively.

Mr. Santorum has received considerable media attention since his campaign in Iowa gave Mitt Romney a run for his money.  Conservatives are quite enthused with his history as a politician and the dedication he has towards his straitlaced principles.  However, if capitalism, as defined by Ayn Rand, is regarded as a social system based on individual rights, then Rick Santorum is no friend of freedom.

On the surface, Mr. Santorum appears to embrace more freedom and fewer controls in the marketplace.  His economic plan calls for a number of tax cuts and even eliminates the thirty five percent corporate income tax for manufacturers.  What should be troublesome to the American voter is his reasoning.

According to the campaign website, “As a husband and father, Rick Santorum knows the importance of protecting and providing for your family.  He believes that at the core of the American experience is the family, and that without strong families, we cannot have a strong and vibrant nation.”

This sentiment is not a celebration of individualism or man’s rights.  This is arguably a remnant of the neoconservative thinking that dominated the political dialogue during the Bush years.  In essence, maintaining the strength and power of the nation-state is of the utmost importance.  To do this, the political leadership needs to have a strong economy and a strong people.  Basic free enterprise principles are best suited for achieving the economic ends but how does the nation-state foster scrupulous citizens?  Simple, faith!

Rick Santorum is no disappointment to the typical neoconservative intellectual.  He proudly asserts his religious beliefs on the campaign trail and has likely shifted the discussion of the presidential elections from one of economic policy and government’s proper role to how government should institutionalize religious practices.  The social conservatives in Iowa and elsewhere have finally found their viable spiritual alternative to Mitt Romney.

This is the consequence of those that think man’s rights come from God or any other Almighty, invisible, supernatural entity.

Where Mr. Obama cares to plunder every pocket book and wallet, Mr. Santorum sees government’s proper role as outlawing “unnatural behavior,” and using federal mechanisms to interfere with the individual’s volition and physical body.

In addition to his fervent anti-abortion stance, Mr. Santorum has mistaken embryos for actual human life in his resistance to embryonic stem cell research and calls contraception, “a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”  Mr. Santorum also feels the need to discuss the “dangers” of contraception and believes states should have the power to ban birth control outright.

Not surprisingly, Mr. Santorum holds the sanctity of the individual in little regard.  In referencing his book, “It Takes a Family,” David Brooks says:

“One of Santorum’s strengths is that he understands that a nation isn’t just an agglomeration of individuals; it’s a fabric of social relationships. In his 2005 book…he had chapters on economic capital as well as social capital, moral capital, cultural capital and intellectual capital. He presents an extended argument against radical individualism. ‘Just as original sin is man’s inclination to try to walk alone without God, individualism is man’s inclination to try to walk alone among his fellows,'”

“Communities breed character. Santorum argues that government cannot be agnostic about the character of its citizens because the less disciplined the people are, the more government must step in to provide order.”

Government needs to intervene to “provide order” when, for instance, OWS campers are engaged in rape, thievery, murder, and destruction of private property.  This is the proper, limited function of government; to exert the retaliatory use of force against those who pick pockets and break legs.  It is not the role of government, however, to try to control and manipulate the behavior of consenting adults.  Whether it’s the consumption of alcohol or what happens behind closed doors on private property, government is not to be in the business of imposing morality.

What Rick Santorum and those like him fail to comprehend are the nature of man’s rights.  A right is neither granted by a supreme Creator or an unbridled government.  It is a freedom of action necessary for man to survive and thrive.  Man must be free from coercion to think and act accordingly.  He must be free to pursue the purchase of property and exercise the use of that property as he sees fit.  He must be free to make the decisions crucial to achieving happiness and values.  He has no right to hold others responsible for his mistakes and he has no claim on society to provide a good or service.  No person or institution can interfere with the actions and choices he makes unless he himself infringes upon the rights of others.  No matter how offensive it may be to one’s sensibilities or perceptions of right and wrong; the virtue of rights is to shield the individual from a tyrannical mob.

It is because of recognizing man’s rights that governments have evolved from being despotic oligarchies to constitutionally limited in power and scope.  The free movement of goods and people, the lack of regulation in how those goods and people moved created, for a short time, capitalism.

Unfortunately, Rick Santorum holds a negative view of individualism and, subsequently, rejects capitalism as a social system.  He may embrace a handful of its economic particulars but cannot embrace it fully because it is inconsistent with his view of rights.  As long as the national debate focuses on whether government is the God of all men or God should be the government of all men, Americans shouldn’t expect the “hope and change” the Tea Party promised some years ago.

Until then, perhaps someone will inform Mr. Santorum that freedom of religion ends where freedom from religion begins.

References

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/06/opinion/brooks-a-new-social-agenda.html

http://thinkprogress.org/health/2012/01/03/396516/santorum-states-should-have-the-right-to-outlaw-birth-control/?mobile=nc

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Damon Gonzalez Jr. writes on politics andf foreign policy issues.

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